UMHB proudly performed its musical of the year with Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” in the Sue and Frank Mayborn Performing Arts Center (PAC) on April 12-14. While other events, such as plays, orchestra ensembles and guest performances, have occurred in the PAC since its opening last year, “The Music Man” was the first Broadway musical to be performed in the center.
Many people were involved with the making of this musical. The entire cast sang, danced and acted as though they were the actual residents of River City, Iowa, where the musical takes place.
The cast featured many UMHB students as well as faculty, recent alumni and community members. Many of the extras and child roles were filled by community members who take lessons at the UMHB Music Conservatory.
Auditions were held in late November 2018, and students who received roles enrolled in the Opera/Musical Theatre class for the spring semester. Producer Dr. Jonathan Gary knew that there were a lot of non-music majors who had experience and love for theater in high school who would be interested in auditioning, and he encouraged them to participate. As a result, many students from other departments on campus joined the cast and crew. Faculty members such as UMHB’s Provost John Vassar and Alumni Relations Secretary Shelly Claybrook also played small parts in the musical. Art professor Hershall Seals and the Painting I class helped create the backdrops.
UMHB brought in Natasha Tolleson, who is the head of Temple High School’s theater arts department, to be Artistic Director for the production. Tolleson had won many awards and directed her fair share of musicals before working with UMHB on “The Music Man.”
“It was a large staff that put all of this together under Natisha Tolleson’s artistic direction and Dr. Gary’s producing,” Lisa Clement, UMHB voice professor and the musical’s Music Director, said.
Even the new student body president, Sarah Fox, participated in the musical as Mrs. Squires.
“It was such a blessing to be involved with the very beginning of a new start here with theater at UMHB,” Fox said. “I am so grateful for everyone who spent so many hours creating something incredible for the campus and the community. I’m so excited to see the future of this program.”
The show itself was spectacular. Set designer Erik Vose and his building team did a great job making the movable and interactive sets. Not only were the sets well-designed, but the crew did a great job seamlessly transitioning between at least six different sets. The backdrops and props were cleverly made and vibrant that every detail stood out on stage.
The cast did a great job singing the tongue-tying lyrics. It was obvious that the cast and crew had practiced very hard to prepare for opening night. Many of the audience members, myself included, were tapping our feet and humming along to the wonderful scores and fun lyrics.
Senior music major Stassny Bickham played the role of Edith Porter in the musical.
“It was a lot of fun being in the musical,” Bickham said. “The cast, crew and directors all loved each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We prayed together, and we supported each other. It was great to be part of a community so wonderful.”
Freshman physical education major Kyle Parsons starred in the musical as Professor Harold Hill.
“The part of Professor Hill was super fun to play. I have always wanted to portray such an iconic role, and to have the opportunity was fantastic,” Parsons said. “It was a little nerve-wracking being a freshman and coming into such a talented cast and crew, and working with such experienced, professional directors. My worries faded fast though, [as] my fellow castmates were so welcoming and supportive and made it such a great experience.”
“I threw a few just broad ideas at him and he just took it and ran with such talent,” Professor Clements said about Parsons. “[During the April 11 performance] there was an orchestra chord and it was difficult to pull his starting note out of… he sang a note in the chord, then realized it wasn’t the actual starting note. It was in the same chord, so it still sounded good, but he just morphed the beginning so that the first two notes were incorrect and all the rest of them were correct. His ear let him know— [this is] the mark of a good musician.”
The musical took many months of hard work and dedication to prepare, and it was well-received by attendees. Talk of more musicals being held next year is already in the works. One thing the music department is sure about is that “The Music Man” was only the first of many musicals and plays to be performed in the PAC.
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